Art AI Festival inspires new study that could help dementia patients in Leicester

Artwork created using artificial intelligence (AI) has been installed at an NHS clinic in Leicester, as part of the city’s Art AI Festival 2019 organised by De Montfort University (DMU)'s Institute of Creative Technologies.

Produced by US artist Gene Kogan, ‘Neural Synthesis’ features a sequence of brightly coloured psychedelic images generated by an AI algorithm that teaches itself how to continuously evolve.

Edited Neural Synthesis

Commissioned by the Art AI Festival for older people, the piece will be on display throughout May in a waiting area at the Neville Centre, on the site of Leicester General Hospital.

The artwork has inspired a new study looking at alternative therapies for people with memory loss and dementia, and researchers from DMU, University of Leicester and the Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust (LPT) will compare the effect it has on patients, carers and staff.

“We want to see if AI art can have the same positive effect that conventional art has on patients with memory loss or mental health conditions,” explained Tracy Harwood, professor in digital culture at DMU’s Institute of Creative Technologies.

Patients, their carers and members of staff at the hospital will be asked to fill out a questionnaire about the artwork, describing what they see, how it makes them feel, what they like and what they don’t like about the work.

Elizabeta Mukaetova-Ladinksa and Tracy Harwood
Professor Elizabeta Mukaetova-Ladinska (left) and Professor Tracy Harwood (right)

University of Leicester professor Elizabeta Mukaetova-Ladinska, who is also a consultant in old age psychiatry for LPT, said: “We do not yet know if AI art will have any impact but we do know that keeping dementia patients entertained is good for their wellbeing.

“Just being exposed to art can provoke emotion, reduce depression and improve cognition so I think there is great potential with this.”

Professor Harwood added: “Hopefully this research will provide us with the data we need to take the study to the next step and evaluate the clinical impact.”

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Although the installation at the hospital is not open to the public, Neural Synthesis will go on wider display at the Leicester Central Library during the Art AI Festival, from 16 to 31 May. 

The Art AI Festival is organised by DMU’s Institute of Creative Technologies to celebrate creative artificial intelligence in its various different forms.

This year’s event features work by world-leading artists, including Mario Klingemann, Libby Heaney, Sophia Crespo and Nadine Lessio.

As well as Leicester Central Library, exhibitions will take place at Highcross and Haymarket Shopping Centres, Haymarket Theatre and Phoenix Cinema, and there will also be free activities including talks, films and a comedy improvisation performance with a robot.

  • For more about the festival, visit and follow on Twitter @ArtAIFestival and Instagram @ArtAIFestLeics using the hashtag #ARTAI2019.
Posted on Thursday 2 May 2019

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